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UPDATED REBUTTALS LIST! The dark side of book publicity is revealed as rebuttals flow in for Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler

“How could Harvard have published Urwand’s The Collaboration?” David Denby, The New Yorker

“If you’re looking for proof of collaboration in the WW 2 sense, or a pact with Hitler? Save your money.” Paul Teetor, LA Weekly

“Urwand is a conspiracy theorist…The Collaboration puts two and two together to make 400…” Craig Brown, The Daily Mail

“In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined such a mendacious book published by one of the most prestigious academic presses.” Dr Clare Spark

“…when Urwand gave a talk in London at the Wiener Library he included these same clips [of The House of Rothschild], out of context, to try and prove his point.” Joel W. Finler, The Camden Review

“…The Collaboration is far more startling for what it downplays or omits than for the new material it turns up.” J. Hoberman, London Review of Books

“One can’t help wondering why the Harvard Society of Fellows thought this book worthy of support and what Harvard University Press intended by publishing it.” Mark Horowitz, Tablet Mag

After a cunning and manipulative pre-launch campaign by Goldberg McDuffie Communications (GMC) for Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, which resulted in odd, gushing ‘reviews’ for the book back in May, the tide has now turned and negative reviews (scroll down) are flowing just as the book is released.

Even as an editor, it never occurred to me that book publicity could have a dark side but Lynn Goldberg, Megan Beatie and Kathleen Zrelak of GMC have orchestrated interviews, coverage and appearances for the perennially grim-looking Urwand, that will in hindsight appear unworthy at best, and sinister at worst. Or perhaps, like everyone else, these three veteran publicists were also sucked in by the Harvard brand (publisher of the book and Urwand is a junior fellow), the sensational nature of Urwand’s claims, the veil of importance that researching German archives has for some, and the ‘it must be true’ element associated with Urwand also being Jewish, just as the victims of his posthumous takedown are.

Make sure to read: “Face to Face with Ben Urwand: the question I asked and his reply.”

However, if Goldberg, Beatie and Zrelack had any inkling that Urwand’s claims were “overstated,” “naive,” “libel,” “slanderous,” and “manipulative” as some expert commentators have said, then if anyone has collaborated, in the pejorative sense of the word that Urwand attaches wrongly to the Jewish moguls, it is them.

It appears Harvard University Press (HUP) also took part in smoke and mirrors tactics. I have recently discovered that David Mikics, who wrote the first positive review about The Collaboration in Tablet Mag, did not disclose that he is also published by HUP. This early review was then referenced by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times and also set the tone for the disturbing Jewish response to this book.

Below is a lengthy list of negative/critical reviews and rebuttals for Ben Urwand’s book, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. Click on the author’s name to be taken directly to the article:

  1. July 31, 2013 Professor Thomas Doherty, film scholar, Brandeis University, writing in The Hollywood Reporter (THR), who calls the book “slanderous and ahistorical.”
  2. August 2013 Film historian Mike Greco, whose review was published by the American Film Institute (AFI), says, “The unintentionally funny The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler rivals Brooks’ 1967 masterpiece for outrageous and bizarre characters, situations and plot twists.”
  3. August 7, 2013 - Danielle Berrin for the Jewish Journal, who quotes me, Cass Warner and Quentin Tarantino on the controversy.
  4. August 21, 2013 My own rebuttal, which also looks at the conflicted Jewish response to this book.
  5. September 13, 2013 Dr Clare Spark has written two posts critical of Urwand, his book and Harvard University Press for publishing The Collaboration in The Clare Spark Blog. Dr Spark says, “In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined such a mendacious book published by one of the most prestigious academic presses.”
  6. September 14, 2013 Paul Teetor in the LA Weekly who asks Urwand directly about Louis B. Mayer only to have Urwand back down from his disgraceful claims. About The Collaboration, Teetor finishes with, “If you’re looking for proof of collaboration in the WW 2 sense, or a pact with Hitler? Save your money,” which is all you need to know really.
  7. September 15, 2013 ‘Scooter’ provides a knowledgeable, funny and thorough dismantling of Urwand via a forum thread. Whoever this person is, he or she knows their stuff and also references Mike Greco heavily. Scooter writes, “when Unwand isn’t flat out misrepresenting the events, he is attempting to draw cause and effect relationships where none exist.”
  8. September 16, 2013 David Denby in the The New Yorker, provides a history lesson of his own and says, “It’s hard to imagine how authoritative scholarship and furious accusations can be based on missing documents, the conditional mood, and conjecture,” and importantly, “…the charge of ‘collaboration’ is inaccurate and unfair—a case of scholarly sensationalism.”Error or idiocy on every page of Ben Urwand's book
  9. September 16, 2013 Farran Nehme, freelance film reviewer for The New York Post posted a powerful rebuttal in her blog ‘Self Styled Siren’ and brings up the very important point that Urwand was inspired to write his dissertation, and ultimately his book, because of a comment made by Budd Schulberg, who was known to hate Louis B. Mayer, and it is from this shaky foundation that Urwand tries to create a premise – and fails. She also eviserates several of Urwand’s main claims, including that MGM ‘washed’ funds through German armaments factories.
  10. September 18, 2013- Galia Licht, LA correspondent for Haaretz.com, which initially ran a positive review and has now followed with a critical article. Both Cass Warner and I are quoted. (Update: unfortunately, Haaretz is now followed with a 3rd bite at this apple and have struck another worm with Jack Schwartz’s poorly informed review. I understand Mike Greco has written a scathing comment beneath it to set the record straight.)photo(3)
  11. September 18, 2013 Jeanine Basinger, chairwoman of the department of film studies at Wesleyan University, writing for the Wall Street Journal, says of The Collaboration: “The result is something of a film historian’s nightmare.” Under Basinger’s review, Mike Greco, takes issue with her opinion that the moguls wanted to “keep the lucrative German market.” According to Greco, this was not the case.
  12. VITAL! September 23, 2013 David Denby in his second article about The Collaboration in The New Yorker goes one step farther now and asks how could Harvard have published this book. Denby also quotes Professor Steven Carr, a specialist in Holocaust and Hollywood studies. Carr’s research on the topic includes his book, Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War Two (Cambridge University Press, 2001), which was praised by reviewers for its in-depth research of antisemitic allegations of Jewish control made against Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s.photo(6)
  13. September 29, 2013 Alexander C. Kafka, deputy managing editor of The Chronicle Review, a magazine ‘of ideas’ for The Chronicle of Higher Education, has written a brief summary, which still hits the main highlights of the Urwand controversy. In it, he reveals that Harvard blames me for Urwand’s bad press saying that I have run a campaign to undermine the book. What I’ve done is run a campaign to promote the truth and ensure the many excellent rebuttals get the attention they deserve.
  14. September 30, 2013 Jon Wiener, journalist, historian and author of Historians in Trouble, wrote a magnificent longer summary of the controversy for The Nation. Along with examining the significant issues with Urwand’s book, he reveals the strange ambivalence of the six Berkeley academics acknowledged in The Collaboration.
  15. NEWLY ADDED! October 1, 2013 Harvard’s own daily paper, The Harvard Crimson, does a terrific job of covering the deepening controversy surrounding The Collaboration, published by Harvard University Press. The piece quotes David Denby’s second New Yorker Magazine piece and eminent film writer and historian, Jim Hoberman, who states, ““I found his characterization of Hollywood to be extremely monolithic.”
  16. October 8, 2013 Professor Jerome Christensen of USC Irvine, powerful and comprehensive review in the Los Angeles Review of Books is essential reading not only for anyone following the debate, but for film history students. Jerome Christensen demolishes Ben Urwand’s claims and provides vital historical context, which Urwand often chooses to ignore.
  17. October 9, 2013 Tom Carson covers the “Hollywood attack dogs” Twitter attack unleashed by Sir Richard J. Evans on Carson, critic David Thomson and myself in this funny piece in The American Prospect. Sir Evans is Urwand’s most prominent supporter. He later deleted his tweets.
  18. October 13, 2013 award-winning writer Ed Caesar in The Sunday Times of London, says Urwand makes “grave and overblown charges,” and swiftly points out that it’s not Urwand’s research that is the problem, it is his interpretation, which is designed to uphold his sensationalist claims, and his dogged desire to strip the time and those he denigrates of any historical context.
  19. October 19, 2013 David Hudson, writing in Fandor’s newsblog KeyFrameDaily wraps up his review in record time with, “In my view, Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler has already been thoroughly (and expertly) discredited by Farran Nehme and David Denby.” He goes on to mention Tom Carson’s and Jon Wiener’s articles on the topic, and also points to my aggregation of Urwand rebuttals.
  20. October 25, 2013 Chris Yogerst writing in PJ Lifestyle says, “If we take the perspective of the time period into account, it is easy to see that Urwand’s research is not revealing anything new and is instead spinning widely accepted facts into conspiratorial territory.”
  21. October 31, 2013 Gavriel D. Rosenfeld writing in the Jewish Daily Forward meticulously unpicks the title of Ben Urwand’s contentious book and reveals how deeply manipulative it is. Sadly, though, like other critical reviews, the title of the piece is at odds with its content.
  22. November 1, 2013 I make the case to the Australian Jewish community in my feature article in the Australian Jewish News.
  23. November 16, 2013 Craig Brown writing in The Daily Mail labels Ben Urwand “a conspiracy theorist” and “The Collaboration puts two and two together to make 400″ – and still we wonder if Harvard will act?
  24. November 23, 2013 Thomas W. Hodgkinson writing for the Spectator essentially labels Urwand a “propagandist” and calls his interpretation “tendentious.”
  25. November 27, 2013 Lauren Rosenzweig writing in the Jewish Review of Books reveals newly found documents that prove Louis B. Mayer and the other Jewish movie men secretly funded spies to infiltrate pro-Nazi groups and other covert activity.
  26. November 27, 2013 Oscar-winning screenwriter, acclaimed biographer and novelist, Frederic Raphael, provides detailed underpinning context for the Jewish moguls actions, which Ben Urwand is so keen to ignore. Raphael also points out, as so many have, that while Urwand claims everything in his book is “documented,” the “evidence” supplied in his footnotes rarely support his sensationalist, often hysterical claims.
  27. December 5, 2013 author and film historian Joel W. Finler provides a critical review of The Collaboration in The Camden Review. Having attended Ben Urwand’s lecture at the Wiener Library in London, he notes that Urwand “…included these same clips [of The House of Rothschild], out of context, to try and prove his point”. Finler also echoes David Denby’s key comment by concluding with: “As David Denby has pointed out in The New Yorker: “Throughout the book he [Urwand] gives the impression that the studios were merely doing the Nazis’ bidding… The charge of ‘collaboration’ is inaccurate and unfair – a case of scholarly sensationalism.”
  28. December 19, 2013 J. Hoberman writing in the prestigious London Review of Books reviews both Thomas Doherty’s Hollywood and Hitler and Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration, and like others views Doherty’s book as superior with a sound foundation of context and depth of understanding of America in the 30s and the film business of the time. Hoberman writes, “…The Collaboration is far more startling for what it downplays or omits than for the new material it turns up. The book barely acknowledges the existence of political anti-Semitism in America, let alone the degree to which Hollywood was a target for nativists and anti-Semites, or the common identification made between communists and Jews.”
  29. December 20th, 2013 Mark Horowitz’s rebuttal in Tablet Mag makes up for the terrible mistake made by allowing David Mikics to ‘review’ The Collaboration in June. If you only read a couple of rebuttals from this list, make sure you include this one. Here’s an excerpt: “The Collaboration accuses Jews of betraying their country, selling out their co-religionists, and funding the Nazi war machine—for German gold, no less! This is not simply a silly book; it’s a deeply problematic, even potentially dangerous, one. Who knows whether this is due to incompetence or malevolence. The mystery is that no editor or faculty adviser seems to have been looking out for the author.”
  30. December 31st, 2013 Hector Tobar of the Los Angeles Times includes The Collaboration in its top 5 literary scandals of 2013.
  31. December/January issue 2013/2014 Noah Isenberg writing in BookForum says, “Urwand is so eager to be right that he sometimes willfully omits examples that would disprove or at least complicate his account.”
  32. December/January issue 2013/2014 David Cesarani writing in Stage and Screen Literary Review calls Urwand’s attitude to definitions  “cavalier” and calls him on his almost total lack of vital context, “Urwand almost completely ignores what was happening in Germany and Washington but the studios were not operating in a bubble.” [Review not available online.]
  33. January 27th, my opinion piece in the Jewish Journal, I explain why Harvard University Press must withdraw The Collaboration and subject it to a full and independent fact check.
  34. March 2104 grand-daughter of prolific producer Sol M. Wurtzel, Sharon Rosen Leib, proudly defends her grandfather in the San Diego Jewish Journal.
  35. NEWLY ADDED! May 2014 Jeffrey Thompson, Assistant Professor, Sewanee: The University of the South, provides a vital connection to the film history that Urwand dismisses in his paper, “The Devil is in the Details: Framing Ideologies in Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration,” published in the Open Inquiry Archive.
  36. COMING SOON! July 2014 Lawrence Baron expertly compares Thomas Doherty’s book with Ben Urwand’s in his review essay, “Tarnishing Tinseltown: Hollywood’s Responses to Nazi Germany,” to be published in the Journal of Jewish Identities.
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This tweet from film journalist Lou Lumenick following my confrontation with Urwand at his only Australian appearance.

If you are aware of any other negative reviews of Ben Urwand’s book where commonsense has prevailed, let me know and I will add it to the list. For interviews on this topic, please leave a post, which I will keep as private and make contact.
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6 comments on “UPDATED REBUTTALS LIST! The dark side of book publicity is revealed as rebuttals flow in for Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler

  1. Alice: I’ve written a follow-up post on the New Yorker’s website calling for Harvard to withdraw Urwand’s book. Thanks for keeping track of all this. David Denby

    • Yes, thank you David.

      I have commented on this 2nd article of yours. I am VERY grateful for both, but especially this latest one. This book should never have been published. I understand it was an earlier version of this book that was also Urwand’s doctoral thesis. I know one film scholar has decided to pursue this.

      Many thanks,

      Alicia

  2. Alicia, like you, I flinched when I first heard about Urwand’s book. My great-grandfather, pioneering producer Sol M. Wurtzel, was head of production at Fox Studios from 1917 through the 1920s. When Darryl Zanuck’s 20th Century merged with Fox in 1935, Zanuck put my great-grandfather in charge of Fox’s B-picture unit where he remained until the late 1940s. Papa Sol produced 100s of movies during his career, including some of those mentioned in Urwand’s book. He was also one of the co-founders and first president of Temple Israel of Hollywood. I think I hear him rolling in his grave about being labeled a “Nazi collaborator.”
    I’ve done extensive research on his life and have learned about how he and other Hollywood moguls grappled with their Jewish identities, anti-Semitism and the Nazis. I commend you and David Denby for taking Ben Urwand and Harvard Univ. Press to task for this overreaching book. I’ve heard for years how the Nazis and powerful, wealthy domestic anti-Semites like Henry Ford squeezed “Hollywood Jews” in a vise as these successful men struggled to hang on to the motion picture “empire” they created. Could the Hollywood Jews have acted more courageously against Hitler? Maybe. But to be labeled collaborators? No, they don’t deserve that aspersion. Context matters.

  3. […] moguls collaborated with Hitler and his regime. Basically, as soon as Urwand’s publicists, Golberg McDuffie, sent out their presser about his book, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, […]

  4. Good to hear from Sol Wurtzel’s grand-daughter. At least one Wurtzel-produced B, Allan Dwan’s 1937 “That I May Live,” features a positive if somewhat stereotypical Jewish character, an itinerant peddler played by J. Edward Bromberg. A bit of research would certainly uncover other positive presentations of Jewish characters during the supposed ban” on ethnics during the 1930s, such as Maurice Moscovitich’s Max Rubens in Leo McCarey’s 1937 masterpiece “Make Way for Tomorrow” (a Paramount release, btw). And I wish someone (including the author of the otherwise well-researched LA Book Review piece) would bother to watch “House of Rothschild” beyond the dicey first reel: though set in the Napoleonic era, the film quickly becomes a transparent allegory of the events of 1933-34, in which an evil Prussian aristocrat (Boris Karloff, no less!) funds a smear campaign against the Jews of Europe for personal and political reasons — in other words, an explicit attack on German antisemitism.

    Details have an annoying way of undermining wild generalizations.

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